For policymakers and stakeholders who are considering new healthcare reform expansions or improvements to their current programs, the following recommendations emerge:
1] Parity for mental illness and substance use disorders is an important component of healthcare reform efforts seeking to meet the needs of people who are uninsured.
2] Parity, by itself, does not ensure access to a broad array of services necessary to treat mental illness and substance use disorders; some states have also addressed the scope of benefits, utilization management, cost sharing, and provider availability in their healthcare reform initiatives.
3] To improve health outcomes, several states have included mental illness and substance use disorders in chronic care management and wellness initiatives.
4] States would benefit from access to information regarding efforts to address mental illness and substance use disorders in state programs to cover the uninsured.
5] To facilitate stakeholder input and informed decision-making, healthcare expansion initiatives should clearly define the scope of benefits for mental illness and substance use disorders and specify whether people with these disorders are included in all parts of the reform efforts.
Throughout the research for this report, publicly available websites and plan documents frequently lacked clarity or information regarding the scope of benefits and other aspects of the program. Interviews with state officials and insurance plan administrators were needed to understand the extent of coverage for mental illness and substance use treatment and whether adults with these disorders were included in state programs. This information should be readily available to facilitate stakeholder participation and ensure informed choices about health insurance coverage.
NAMI and the National Council, June 8th,2008